Benefits of classroom-based research —

Background — It is widely recognized that research experience can improve student understanding of and attitude toward science. Moreover, a greater number and diversity of undergraduates can benefit from classroom-based research than through traditional research experiences. Classroom-based research can have strong positive effects for students from underrepresented groups in science, increase undergraduate retention through graduation, and can increase a student’s likelihood of pursuing graduate STEM education. However, such course development requires substantial time and energy, an investment that may seem prohibitive to faculty members. We took a team approach and developed a classroom-based research course in evolutionary ecology, modeled after a research lab. This simulated the environment of a research lab for the students, provided training opportunities for instructional team members at different stages of academic development, and shared the workload associated with course development and teaching.

Results — Many learning gains reported by our students exceeded those by students involved in similar courses and also those by students in summer research programs (Miller et al. 2013). Data collected by students were highly accurate, and will be used for publication.

Significance — Although the approach of classroom-based research is gaining popularity in fields such as genomics, this is one of relatively few examples in the literature from ecology and evolutionary biology. Moreover, our outcomes suggest that engaging several members of a research laboratory in such a course can benefit students and instructors alike.